Moose Jaw school offers province’s first all-girls welding class

A dozen grade 10 students at Peacock Collegiate take part in an all-girls welding class. Adrian Raaber/ Global News

MOOSE JAW – A Moose Jaw high school is encouraging women to learn a less-traditional trade by offering what it says is the province’s first all-girls welding class.

Martin Holzer began teaching welding at Peacock Collegiate 15 years ago and says he has had very few female students.

“The girls will sometimes be a little intimidated by the guys,” said Holzer. “Even though the guys are brand new welders and don’t know anything, some of them act like they do.”

For the last couple of years, Holzer has been pushing for an all-girls class and this semester he had a dozen grade 10 girls sign up.

“I was terrified to even hold a welder in the beginning,” said student Kate Thiessen. “It’s good to learn to listen carefully on what to do cause there’s a lot of little things that can affect a weld.”

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However, for student Emily Okerstrom, welding runs in the family: “My dad and all my family. They’ve all taken welding and use it in some sort of way on our farm.”

Okerstrom says she’s in line to take over the family farm and says welding is a vital skill.

“If we’re seeding and something on the seeder breaks, you just quickly weld it back on and carry on with your day,” said Okerstrom.

Nearly 300 welding related jobs are posted on the SaskJobs website, which highlights the demand in the province.

However, the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC) says encouraging more women to go into non-traditional trades has been difficult.

Only 40 of the 680 registered apprentice welders in Saskatchewan are women and that number has remained unchanged over the past few years.

“I think it’s been an issue probably of stigma,” said Jeff Ritter, CEO of SATCC. “The perception that the trades are dark or dirty or dangerous.”

Brandt employs 15 female welders in Regina out of a total of about 150. The vice-president of manufacturing tells Global News the company can never fill as many welding positions as it needs.

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